New Times barred from city budget meeting
July 3, 2010
New Times was shown the door when a reporter tried to cover the first meeting of a new advisory committee, formed to provide input to the San Luis Obispo city manager on budget issues. [New Times]
The Financial Sustainability Task Force, organized by city manager Katie Lichtig, is comprised of 33 members, almost all business leaders and representatives of municipal employees. More than half of the Task Force does not live in San Luis Obispo; 11 of the 33 are city employees.
Attempts by New Times to send a reporter to the meetings were rejected by Lichtig, who has also closed the sessions to the public.
“I wanted to create an environment where people feel open and honest about the topic at hand,” said Lichtig. “I want to create a group dynamic without people coming in and out.”
Because the Task Force reports directly to Lichtig, the meetings are not subject to Brown Act requirements for public participation.
Some political observers, including former San Luis Obispo mayor Peg Pinard, are objecting to the way Lichtig has stacked the Task Force with city employees instead of community residents.
“While it’s good to get business stakeholders’ input, for fundamental equity and balance there must be equal input from a committee whose focus is protecting the city’s great natural resources, which are so highly valued by its residents, and another [committee] preserving the quality of life in our residential neighborhoods. Of course, these committees should be primarily city residents,” said PInard.
Officials predict that San Luis Obispo will face a $3 million annual shortfall for the 2011-2013 fiscal years.